White Rock swimmer Hilary Caldwell gets a hug from a competitor after Caldwell clocked a record-breaking time in the 200-m backstroke at FINA World Swim Championships.

White Rock swimmer Hilary Caldwell gets a hug from a competitor after Caldwell clocked a record-breaking time in the 200-m backstroke at FINA World Swim Championships.

Caldwell sets new Canadian record in backstroke

White Rock swimmer Hilary Caldwell wins bronze, sets record at FINA World Championships in Spain

After she touched the wall at the conclusion of the women’s 200-m backstroke, White Rock swimmer Hilary Caldwell had to look twice at her time before she believed the number she saw.

Next to her name, posted on the electronic board above the pool in Barcelona, Spain – host site for the FINA World Championships – was the number 2:07.81.

Not only was the time a new personal best – which would be reason enough to get excited – it was also 0.23 seconds faster than the previous Canadian record, which was until that point held by her Canadian teammate Sinead Russell.

“I kind of did a double-take when I looked at the board,” Caldwell said. “I was like, ‘I didn’t go 2:07, that’s really fast for the morning, I don’t think that was me.’

“I had to read it a couple times.”

The time was indeed hers, which was good enough to put her through to the semifinals.

And Caldwell – who swam for Canada at the 2012 Summer Olympics  in London – didn’t waste much time before breaking the record again, swimming the semifinal heat in 2:07.15 – 0.66 seconds faster than her first record-breaking performance.

And if such a showing was impressive enough, in the final, held Saturday, the White Rock swimmer broke the Canadian mark for the third time in 32 hours, clocking a time of 2:06.8 – good for a bronze medal.

“I was feeling really good. I was feeling fit, I was feeling good in the water and my backstroke was feeling great. I just went with it and once I went the 2:07 (Friday morning) I had the confidence to keep going, which was great. I was competitive with the field and I felt like I could be right in there,” Caldwell said shortly after the medal ceremony.

“It’s pretty exciting. I don’t know if it’s quite sunk in yet actually but it’s pretty cool to be up there.”

The 200-m backstroke final was won by American Missy Franklin, who won her fifth gold medal of the world championships. Australia’s Belinda Hockey won silver.

Team Canada head swimming coach Randy Bennett – also Caldwell’s coach at the Victoria Academy of Swimming where she now trains – called her performance “a big step.”

“Considering where she came from last year, (where) she kind of stubbed her toe and was 18th at the Olympics… we kind of felt she had a little bit more in her there last year,” Bennett said.

“To her credit she put her head down and she worked really hard all year.”

Canada won seven medals at the world championships, which also include diving, synchronized swimming, water polo and high diving.

Earlier at the world championships, another former PSW swimmer, Richard Weinberger – also an Olympian – placed fifth in the 10-km open-water swim.